Surviving Hurricane Harvey (Dispatch #2)

As reported in my earlier post, our family of four waded out of our Houston home on Sunday morning with one backpack per person. Hurricane Harvey hit us hard. At that time there was 2–3 feet of water in the house, it was raining heavily and streets all over the city were flooded. Although we made it out safely, we had to leave our cats behind. We left them on the second floor with food and water and hoped for the best. Leaving them behind was what we had to do to get out, but it did not feel right. They are our responsibility and part of our family. My heart broke to leave them.

As it got light on Monday morning, the forecasts called for continued heavy rain and more flooding. The rain just never stopped — it kept coming and coming. City officials started talking about dams and levies breaking and needing to release water that would flow into our already flooded area. The release would make our situation worse, but it would save hundreds of other homes from catastrophic destruction. The city planned to start releasing water in the late morning. Hearing this, we realized that, at best, we had a small window of time to get back into the house and rescue our cats.

Our furniture is not supposed to be floating!

Cat Rescue

Not knowing what we would find, we hopped into a Suburban and set out for our house. We found a route back to the neighborhood, but many of the streets and highways were flooded and closed. In our neighborhood we hit water two streets earlier than expected. 24 hours earlier, the higher street next to ours had only an inch or so of water — now it was flooded at three feet. We could not see our street or determine the depth of the water there.

It was still raining and the situation was only getting worse. We almost gave up and turned around, but decided to wade closer and check the situation. By staying close to the houses and out of the higher water in the street, we were able to wade through 18 inches of water. Finally, we made it to the house that backs up to ours— the one with the magic gate (see earlier post).

The water at the neighbors’ house was about three feet — which was uncomfortably high. Based on depth, we decided to have my husband and older son (the two tallest in the family) venture in further. They disappeared into our neighbors’ backyard. My younger son and I waited and waited — standing knee deep in water and watching it flow down the street.

Finally they emerged. With great relief, we saw that they were safe and had rescued our two cats! After struggling through stomach-high water to access the house, they found that the kitchen was flooded up to the top of the counters. They did not bring much out besides the cats, but that was enough. Now, all of our living beings were safe. We could hunker down together and wait out the rest of the storm.

Common moments become complicated

We navigated our way back to my parents’ with our very freaked out cats. The next task was to find litter box supplies for them and re-stock food for us. There was one grocery store — HEB — open near us. It had opened that morning for the first time in days. Hundreds of people had braved the intense rain and the floods in order to re-stock on basics like bread and water. HEB had as many registers open as possible — limited because many employees could not get to the store. They kept the long lines moving and did a great job. Houstonians showed true community spirit that day. Everyone was cheerful and helpful and polite with the lines and rationed food.

View of our house from the magic gate in back

Surviving Hurricane Harvey has involved dangerous moments like wading out of the flood and commonplace moments that turn complicated like a trip to the grocery store. But one thing is certain — this storm changes everything — for us as a family and for our community and for the city of Houston. The outcome is yet to be seen. The water is still rising and the dams need to release water. This story is not over yet.

Originally published at